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Olymel hog plant staff approve strike mandate

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Updated, March 19 — Olymel has tabled a “final comprehensive offer” for unionized staff at its Vallee-Jonction, Que. hog slaughter plant after the workers gave negotiators a strike mandate.

The meat packing arm of Quebec’s Coop Federee said Wednesday it’s at an “impasse” with its workers, represented by the Confederation des syndicats nationaux (CSN), due to the “intransigence of (the union’s) monetary demands.”

CSN represents over 950 workers at the plant, in the Beauce region about 60 km southeast of Quebec City, processing about 7,000 hogs per day, mainly for pork export markets. The unionized staff’s most recent contract expired at the end of December.

The union said Sunday its most recent membership meeting drew out 633 Vallee-Jonction plant staff, who voted 95.8 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

Olymel CEO Rejean Nadeau said Wednesday the company and union have “actually agreed on virtually every normative clause” in recent weeks of talks, but CSN’s wage demands “leave little room for the kind of flexibility that could lead to a reconciliation between the two sides.”

Nadeau said the company hopes to “put an end to this stalemate” and its final offer Olymel “improve(s) many aspects of its March 10 offer.”

“Positive offers”

Olymel, he said, now plans to ask CSN to submit the company’s offer to its members for approval.

CSN, in a separate release late Wednesday, said it would take Olymel’s proposal to its Vallee-Jonction members “in a transparent manner” to the Vallee-Jonction workers “to accept or refuse.”

Olymel said Wednesday it’s presented CSN with “positive offers excluding any recovery” despite booking losses in the company’s fresh pork sector in Eastern Canada in the past two years.

The company said its final offer for a three-year contract “provides (for) wages and conditions that are superior to what is available for comparable work elsewhere in the industry in Canada, and even in North America.”

Olymel said its offer calls for a lump-sum payment to employees, a boost in recognition for years of service, yearly wage hikes above the rate of inflation and improved benefits such as insurance and holidays.

Vallee-Jonction workers already get remuneration 10 per cent above what other firms are paying, but CSN still tabled demands last month for a “37 per cent payroll increase” in the first year of a new contract, Olymel said.

“Given current market conditions, Olymel management would be irresponsible if it agreed to conditions that would force the plant out of the market in the more or less short term.”

Martin Maurice, president of CSN’s Vallee-Jonction local, said Sunday the plant’s workers have seen “minimal” wage hikes since agreeing to what he said was a 40 per cent rollback in 2007, while the workers’ cost of living has continued to rise.

The union, he said, will make “every effort” to arrive at a negotiated settlement, given the strike mandate workers have given to negotiators. — Network


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